Everyone knows that too much stress is harmful, but few fully understand why, and just how much it can affect their day-to-day health. Yet, because chronic stress releases the hormone cortisol, it can leave the body in a state of fight or flight and upset regular balance in the body. And, when left unchecked, it can lead to serious health complications and diseases.
To stay informed on the toll that daily or chronic stress can place on your physical, emotional, or mental state, it’s crucial to learn the different ways it can affect your overall health.
Anxiety and depression
The constant presence of cortisol in the brain can wreak havoc on our mental health. Chiefly, it can cause insomnia and lower levels of oxytocin, the “happy hormone”, both of which can worsen symptoms of anxiety and depression. Additionally, specific stressful moments like a death in the family or traumatic event can cause depression or PTSD.
If your stress levels are beginning to affect the way you feel in the long-term, it may be time to consult a doctor. Symptoms of anxiety and depression to look out for include irritability, fatigue, social withdrawal, and thoughts of self-harm. If you experience these, visit a counselor or physician right away to receive a diagnosis and treatment plan. Pair this medical treatment with regular relaxation techniques for the best results for your mental health. For example, you could try meditation which can help refocus negative thoughts and calm the mind.
Stress’s effect on hormone levels in the body can upset the balance of sex hormones, diminishing the response to physical stimuli and lowering libido. It can also cause nervousness around sex altogether. While women are typically affected mentally by this, men are often affected more physically. For example, stress toward sex or a partner can cause a man to ejaculate prematurely. However, both of these reactions can negatively affect the enjoyment of sex and cause even more stress or embarrassment.
To address stress’s effect in the bedroom, be sure to engage in regular de-stressing activities before intimate acts. Whether that be deep-breathing, showering, or stretching, be sure to give yourself some time to unwind before jumping right in. If your problems persist, reach out for help. Men can try a premature ejaculation treatment that numbs the penis for longer performance, while women who feel anxiety around sex might benefit more from having a conversation with their partner or engaging in more foreplay. Do whatever it is that will help you enter sex without a stress-fuelled mind so that you and your partner can have a more enjoyable experience.
High blood pressure
The body’s natural response to stress is one of self-defense, so adrenaline begins pumping and blood flow increases, prepping the body for a fight. But, if you’re experiencing chronic stress, this response can damage the body’s response and lead to high blood pressure, as well as ultimate heart health issues.
To combat the impact of stress on your heart’s health, it’s important to make time to relax throughout the entire day and find ways to manage major moments of stress. For example, a walk outside can help lower stress at the office, while something more substantial might be needed for a day full of business crises. Be sure you’re comfortable engaging in some self-care on days like these: treat yourself to a nice dinner, take a bubble bath, or have an extra glass of wine. Small activities like these can help lower your blood pressure and stress levels from that day, and set you up for success tomorrow.